April 2009 - Posts - Yankee 2.0
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Yankee 2.0

April 2009 - Posts

  • "Status Anxiety" book highlights

    I've just finished reading "Status Anxiety," by Alain de Botton. In it, he discusses how societies construct status and why (and how) members of those societies can come to feel anxious about their place in the group.

    De Botton is one of my favorite authors, and I'm making my way through all his books. His specialty is a type of philosophy/social observation that uses examples from literature and art to illustrate his points, and he writes in "plain English" rather than in overblown and hard to understand academic terminology. He uses a great deal of humor to get his ideas across, and never dumbs down his message. I think he's great, and recommend him to everyone I know. 

     There were several instances in reading "Status Anxiety" where I thought of the Dollar Stretcher community -- one was when the author considers the meaning of wealth, and describes what Rousseau said were the two ways to make a man richer, "give him more money or curb his desires" (p. 42). I think that what many of us frugalistas are doing is curbing our desires -- rather than wanting to go out to dinner all the time or wanting to buy new designer clothes (or whatever society at large might try to encourage us to want) and feeling bad about not being able to satisfy those  wants, we are instead refusing to want them in the first place, and in that way we are richer; we have fewer unsatisfied wants.

    A second passage that I thought Dollar Stretchers would appreciate is this one: "One's ability to maintain confidence in a way of life at odds with the mainstream culture will be greatly dependent on the... value system of one's immediate environment, on the kinds of people one mixes with socially and on what one reads and listens to." (p. 277). As long as we have a chance to be in touch with others out there (through things like the Dollar Stretcher community) who think as we do, it strenghtens our ability to curb wants, stay free of debt, and have faith in our own values. 

    De Botton's basic idea (and the final sentence of the book) is that "there is more than one way of succeeding at life" (p. 293). 

    There have been film versions made of a couple of de Botton's books, including this one. You can watch snippets of the videos on his web site, I saw them on my local PBS station (with my transponder box and antenna, not on cable Smile). Although I'm a big library user, I'm buying de Botton's complete works -- these are books that I refer back to a lot -- I was surprised that the hardcover copy of the 2004 version of "Status Anxiety" was remaindered at Barnes & Noble -- $5.95.... maybe escaping from this kind of anxiety isn't as popular with others as it is with us frugalisti. 


  • Frugal vacations

    The semester is winding down, and while I still have summer work at my other job, my schedule opens up considerably once I stop teaching. However, my income also drops considerably over the summer. I've been putting a little something into savings each week to put towards my trips, and I plan to do a fair bit of travelling, and hope to keep it as thrifty as possible -- here are some of my ideas:

    Philadelphia is someplace I've always wanted to go -- and thought it would be fun to see if I could limit my museums to those that have free admission. I'm also planning to stay at the home of a fellow Servas member (this is a wonderful organization -- I'm a host and a traveler -- it's a great way to meet people around the world). While Servas hosts are supposed to provide at least one meal for their guests, I'm also going to look into dining at college dining halls. The train will cost about $110 to get there, and I hope to go for about three days. I'd love to keep my spending under $200 total, so I'll track all my expenses and see how I do.

    Day trips -- I LOVE house museums. So I'm going to find those that are nearby and see if they have any discounted admission days, or if they have reciprocal memberships or educator discounts. I'll plan my trips around those days and bring a nice bagged lunch and book with me and find a  public park nearby to have a nice al fresco picnic as part of my outing.

    Visiting friends -- I have some friends in NYC and some with rural or water-based summer homes (it's nice to have rich pals!); staying with friends is always nice, and instead of offering to take everyone out to dinner ($$$$), I'll offer to make a meal at home for the folks I visit (I'll ask in advance). But I'll research an interesting (and inexpensive) nearby restaurant in advance, in case going out is the only option.

    Professional development trip -- I'll be spending two weeks in Italy, thanks to the Italian ministry of education, which is heavily subsidizing a professional development trip for Italian teachers (like me!). The cost is very very low and includes three meals a day (and a room in a dorm), plus  I can write off the cost as professional development.

    Hosting -- I hope to have some international Servas guests come to my house. I'll make meals for them and show them around my little town. THis is almost like traveling without leaving home -- we'll get to learn a lot about each other.

    I'm looking forward to a frugal summer of travel and think it will be a really fun "extra" to keep track of all my travel costs! 


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